Opposition Leader Peter Dutton pledges to slash migration to fix housing crisis

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has delivered his federal budget reply in Parliament on Thursday night.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has delivered his federal budget reply in Parliament on Thursday night. Photo: Getty

The Coalition will slash annual migration by 25 per cent and cut back international student numbers to address the nation’s housing crisis if elected next year, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says.

In his budget reply speech on Thursday night, Dutton announced policies across migration, housing, energy, health and community safety as part of a “road map” to get Australia “back on track”.

A Coalition government would reduce the permanent migration program from 185,000 to 140,000 for the first two years, before rising to an intake of 160,000 in the fourth year.

Dutton said this would free up more than 100,000 homes over the next five years.

The opposition would implement a two-year ban on foreign investors and temporary residents purchasing existing homes in Australia.

The refugee and humanitarian program planning level would also be returned to 13,750.

Thousands of people, including pensioners, would be encouraged to get back into the workforce.

The Coalition would further increase the amount older Australians and veterans can work without reducing pension payments. 

The existing work bonus would be tripled from $300 a fortnight to $900, in a move slated to benefit more than 150,000 pensioners.

The number of hours those on student visas would be able to work would rise by 12 hours a fortnight.

‘Ugly politics’

Dutton defended his budget reply speech as commentators branded it “ugly politics” and questioned the “tone” of his promises.

He appeared in a tense interview on the ABC’s 7.30 program on Thursday night where he told host Sarah Ferguson the cuts to migration were about putting “Australians first in terms of home ownership”.

Ferguson responded: “Australia first doesn’t sound like a very Australian-type thing to say.”

Dutton: “Well, there are countless families I’ve spoken to, as I’ve gone around the country…”

Ferguson: “I think it’s the tone I’m talking about.”

Dutton: “Well, of every nationality of people who’ve just arrived, people who are second, third-generation from India or China – they can’t find a house for their child. For their child who’s in the workforce, working hard, paying taxes, but cannot for love or money buy a house.”

Ferguson: “We have a housing shortage.”

Dutton: “It’s for all those Australians who want to find a house.”

ABC political editor Laura Tingle said Dutton’s speech was “slogan-driven” and was setting the tone for more “ugly politics”.

“It’s basically sort of appealing to all of those real sort of white-hot, very simple ideas of, ‘We can’t get enough houses. It’s all migration’s fault’,” she said.

“I think that sort of sets us up for some pretty ugly politics, which doesn’t require much rational, you know, detail of policy.

“It’s really appealing to people’s sort of anger about things and I think it’s not going to sort of be an attractive argument to have, because it’s sort of really escalating that sense that it’s all migrants’ fault.”

Dutton said that with Labor’s target to build 1.2 million homes by 2029 unlikely to be met, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was making the housing crisis worse.

A report from the government-appointed National Housing Supply and Affordability Council earlier in May found the housing crisis would worsen and the Commonwealth would fall short of its goal to build 1.2 million homes by hundreds of thousands.

But Albanese said the budget offered support for the construction industry and increased commonwealth rent assistance.

“You can’t undo 10 years of neglect in a couple of years – it takes time to do that,” he told ABC Radio.

Dutton said the Coalition would back energy bill rebates in the budget, worth $300 for every household. But he warned the government was “treating the symptom, not the disease” of inflation.

The Opposition is unlikely to support production tax credits worth $13.7 billion for hydrogen and critical minerals, the centrepiece of Labor’s Future Made in Australia plan.

“Magic pudding spending and $13.7 billion on corporate welfare for billionaires doesn’t help the economy, or make your life easier,” he said.

Dutton said a Coalition government would speed up approvals for gas projects and commit to an annual release of offshore acreage for exploration and development in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

He would also defund the Environmental Defenders Office.

The Coalition would also restrict the sales of knives to minors and dangerous individuals and toughen bail laws for family violence, following a number of distressing attacks and murders, Dutton said. 

He will back offences criminalising the use of mobile phones or computer networks to be used to cause intimate partners fear or harm, and tighten bail laws.

The Coalition has also pushed for Australians to be allowed to withdraw up to 40 per cent of their retirement savings – to a maximum of $50,000 – to buy their first home.

The proposal has been criticised by economists and the superannuation industry, who say it would push up house prices, put retirees with mortgages at risk and not benefit young Australians and renters.

-with AAP

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